Finds program for experienced educators a perfect fit and powerful experience.
During my past few years as a nurse educator and leader, I have wanted to learn more about being an effective leader. I looked at a variety of leadership development programs and found that I either had too much experience in nursing education, did not have the right position (associate dean or higher), or had too much leadership experience. Most of the established programs were for novice nursing faculty and aspiring nurse leaders. With more than five years of teaching experience and more than three years of leadership experience, I was overqualified for many of the existing opportunities for personal and professional growth. I wondered if any organized program would meet my needs or if I would need to turn to private coaching.
I was excited when I learned that the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) and The Chamberlain College of Nursing were piloting the Experienced Nurse Faculty Leadership Academy (ENFLA). Selected Scholars had to find a Mentor who worked collaboratively with Academy Faculty to accomplish a leadership progression plan and project. This was my opportunity to be challenged in a formal way.
The application process was a bit overwhelming at first—but, looking back, it allowed my Mentor, Angela McNelis, PhD, RN, FAAN, ANEF, CNE, and me to really examine what would be an appropriate project for the Academy. Our exploration while preparing the application set the stage for future work, conversations, and questions for us as a dyad. This collaborative work with my Mentor guiding me—the Scholar—enabled us not only to know more about each other, but also to develop a working relationship founded upon trust and respect.
My proposed project for the ENFLA was to increase engagement of clinical teaching track faculty in the scholarship of teaching and learning. I was entering a new role in an administrative capacity, and I wanted to champion the scholarly work of clinical teaching track faculty at my institution. I knew that many faculty members were hesitant to engage in scholarship, so I thought, and my Mentor agreed, that this would be a good project for the ENFLA experience.
When we were notified that we had been accepted as a dyad, soon to be triad, the Academy became real for me. No longer was this a proposed project and something nice to do, but it needed to occur. I had tremendous encouragement and guidance for the project not only from my Mentor, but also from my Faculty Advisor.
Center for Excellence in Nursing EducationAs I began the year with the ENFLA, I realized that some of the key building blocks that should have been ready two to three months before the start of my project were not in place. I had to create and implement those building blocks so my project could go forward. Another challenge was that our institution decided to change the evaluation term, which shortened my window of opportunity for developing faculty scholarship.
While creating the infrastructure for my project and dealing with the change in evaluation term, I began to realize that my work in the ENFLA was about more than my project; it was about my journey in personal and professional development. I had to look closely at myself to realize that who I was personally was not congruent with who I wanted to be as a leader. I had to make some fundamental changes to bring the two together. This was not easy work, as it required me to be critical of and reflective about myself as a person before I could embark on evaluating myself as a leader.
During my self-reflection, I found that I was seeking, and devouring, personal learning related to vulnerability, honesty, difficult conversations, appreciative inquiry, and interpersonal relationships—as well as understanding how others may view situations differently than I do. I was learning so much more than I had anticipated when I sought the opportunity to participate in the ENFLA. Through the Academy, I was able to work in a much more focused and purposeful manner than if I had been on my own. I was accountable not only to my Mentor, but also to my Faculty Advisor and other Academy participants.
As we worked together as a group, we grew closer in our journeys. Yes, there were formal goals that our outcomes met, but the most powerful aspects of the ENFLA were the unforeseen personal growth and development. We were all different at the end of the experience. I had grown in so many ways—most of which were not anticipated and not always easy to work through. Would I change this experience? No. The Academy has been such a powerful experience for me as I continue to grow and develop as a leader within academic nursing.
If you are considering applying for the ENFLA, I would strongly encourage you to do so. You will emerge as a different leader from this experience. RNL
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Karen Gorton, PhD, MS, RN, is assistant dean of undergraduate programs at the University of Colorado College of Nursing.